One benefit of working for a gardening company is that I have a steady supply of knackered tools. Bent forks, mangled spades and semi-toothless rakes are always available. Instead of throwing them out, I collect them knowing they can be put to good use on the allotment. Even that broom that’s shed all its bristles, I’ll save it for when we build our fire pit. I have a bit of a premonition this hoarding tendency may be my undoing…
Of course we needed to put up a shed to store all these “treasures.” I ordered a 3’x 6′ shed from Sheds World, which arrived in Ikea-like flat pack form, with a shockingly large bag of hardware. Scott, Simon and myself gathered together on a foggy Saturday morning in November to commence the Great Shed Build. There was some initial trouble, as we kept breaking drill bits trying to make pilot holes for the screws. Eventually brute force won out and we stopped bothering with pilot holes altogether. I know it’s a carpentry no-no if you want to avoid splitting the wood, but we were snapping bits at an alarming rate. We eventually managed to put it together without killing each other or smashing the shed into kindling.
The next morning, Scott and I started painting it. We splurged on the paint, going for The Cuprinol Garden Shades range. We could have gone for the ultra cheap house brand shed paint, but we wanted more colour choice than light brown, dark brown and green. In typical style, I went for the brightest colour they had, bright blue (Barleywood)…with a little pot of Country Cream for the trim.
I have to say, the final result is rather natty, it certainly makes the plot easy to find. In a sea of brown and green sheds, the bright blue clearly stands out. We got several nice compliments from neighbouring plot holders, although I did sense a bit of bemusement behind some of them. Maybe that was just me. I showed a photo of the shed to a co-worker and she declared it made the plot look “like it’s on Santorini or something.”
Maybe in the summer I’ll paint a design on it or something, or would that be too much?
Video made by my wonderfully talented partner, Scott.
We launched The Great Plot Clearance in November 2011 and it continues to this day. Sometimes it feels like the 100 Years’ War of Weed Eradication. Thankfully, the end is finally in sight and all those visions of beautifully organised beds and tidy paths can finally be thought of as possible.
It does us no good wandering about with visions of abundant fruit and veg plants, practically collapsing with the weight of delicious produce, dancing about in our heads. As long as the weeds have the upper hand, there’s no point in even trying to start anything. So the clearing is first and foremost; digging, raking, picking, wheelbarrowing, and complaining. Ibuprofen to follow later.
Even though I have to contend with them all the time, especially professionally, I do have to admire their tenaciousness and incredible constitution. The speed at which they colonise open ground is frustratingly amazing. I swear it takes about the same time to make a cup of tea. While I enjoy that cup of tea, I do admire their beauty, the hairy leaves of the nettles, the alien shapes of liverworts, the soft texture of yarrow. Even the stunning pure white flowers of bind weed capture my eye as it creeps up my legs.
Into the site’s green waste bin it all goes. Along with an incredible amount of rotten red carpet as well. Many plot holders use old carpets to suppress weeds, but this red carpet seems to have become a weed. In rather random locations, often deep down in the soil, we keep digging the damn stuff up. Hopefully in the next year, I won’t be serving up lovely roasted potatoes with little bits of red fluff in them.
I do wonder if some of it, the grasses mainly, could be used as a green manure. I keep thinking we’re removing a shameful amount of nutirients from the soil, but my uncertainty and fear of perpetuating weeds gets the better of me. So I find myself gazing at the nettle patch, recalling someone telling me that their presence are a sign of fine, rich soil, just before I dig the stinging little buggers up and chuck them out.
It never ends.
Mental, that’s what we are. Mental. Allotmental specifically. We’re just starting out and this is to be a record of our start in the world of allotments.
My partner Scott and I have been talking about wanting an allotment for over a year now, but daunted by the time commitment it would take and the waiting lists that span decades, we doubted we’d ever get the chance. Our saviour came in the form of our friend Simon. Struggling to keep up with his double-sized plot and having received a letter from the council informing him to “use it or lose it,” he asked us if we would be interested in partnering up with him and sharing about 240 square meters of allotment. Naturally we said yes.
I am a professional gardener, but would never consider myself an expert when it comes to growing my own food. Pots of herbs and the occasional tomato plant on the patio is all the food production I can really lay claim to. I imagine real experts (tweed-capped, welly-booted, terrier-companioned types) would scoff loudly at my intentions. However, clinging to my university education in agricultural sciences, I now launch myself into this experiential education with great gusto. Propelled by the desire to produce some of my own food, whether through primeval instinct or middle-class upbringing, who knows, I am determined to do this.
So here it will be recorded; the good, bad and occasionally squishy. Enjoy.